Avatar Pre-Release Poker: I See You (Cynics), And I Raise You (Trees)

Last week's news of the Avatar DVD/Blu-ray tie-in to Earth Day's 40th anniversary had some howling that this represented the cynical corporate hijacking of an event that's meant to be about cleaning up more than just the hundreds of millions -- let's call it billions -- left on the table from what's already the biggest-ever box-office blockbuster. Now, more news about the release corrects that rapacious impression -- kinda -- and details of what buying the disc in April will get you.

Turns out, buying Avatar for your home-viewing pleasure will be an act of environmental, well, something. Fox and the Earth Day Network have pledged to plant one million trees in 15 countries by the end of the year. That's a done deal. And commendable. But here's where it gets, er, sappy. If you buy the Avatar DVD or Blu-ray, you and 999,999 other proud owners will be able to "adopt" one of these plucky saplings. Not only will the million lucky consumers be rewarded with a Na'vi-style feeling of eco-nnectedness, but they'll each also receive a virtual hometree, which, I guess is like a 21st Century Ta'magotchi.

Here's what the Fox press release said.

"I am pleased to have the opportunity to share the environmental messages from AVATAR through the efforts during the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day and with Earth Day Network," said James Cameron. "Earth Day Network's commitment and actions to promote a healthy, sustainable planet go hand-in-hand with the themes of AVATAR."

I'm choosing to take this as a veiled acknowledgment that the Earth Day Network has some sort of fall-back position for saving the planet that involves flying dragon-led warfare on mankind. Well, it worked for the Na'vi. But I digress...

Aside from the environmental feelgood factor, the question remains whether it's worth shelling out for a disc that's stripped of extras when an ultimate edition is due in November. The press release tries to assuage such doubts by telling us those who buy and register with "The Avatar Program" online will have access to a hub that bridges the two disc releases. There they'll get "exclusive access to first-look bonus materials, special content, money saving offers and much more".

Plus! They'll be able to take advantage of other "digital initiatives". To wit:

• "Pandorama" - Via a computer's webcam users can immerse themselves into the world of Pandora, inserting themselves into different locations from the movie and interacting with the elements in each; users can snap postcards and share amongst friends only at www.pandorama.avatarmovie.com

• "Immersive Trailer" - The first-ever interactive trailer allows fans to click on any part of the video to explore detail frame-by-frame and in-context "hot spots" that will offer meticulous information on characters, locations and more

• "Interactive Desktop Wallpaper" - Instant access to all things AVATAR including newsfeeds, videos, social network updates and exclusive content that is updated automatically right on your desktop

• "Avatar Yourself" - Unique software where users can transform an image of themselves into a Na'vi image.

If this release is, as Jon Landau puts it, "best presentation of any film in the history of the Blu-ray and DVD formats", then why not simply keep adding awesome features and new footage, etc, to The Avatar Program. No doubt the "money saving offers" mentioned are to be aimed at convincing fans that in November they ought to buy again what they already 80 percent own/have seen.

Of course, when the 3-D DVD/Blu-ray process is perfected, the reselling will start over.